Building muscle is easy … on paper.
You lift weights, eat a tonne of food, and in theory you get bigger, stronger and sexier.
Why then, is it so damn hard in practice?
You struggle away for years and years, fighting hard for every last ounce of lean mass, and wondering when the hell you’re finally going to get that cover model physique or that 300-pound bench press.
Patience is a virtue, but at the same time, feeling like you’re getting nowhere in your pursuit of the body beautiful is utterly demoralizing. Could it be because you’re making one of these 5 mistakes that even smart guys make?
Mistake #1 – Following a Body Part Split
All the big guys do body part splits, so that must be the way to go, right?
The big guys might do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best option. Hitting each muscle group 2 to 3 times per week will jack up your muscle protein synthesis, increase strength gains, and ultimately get you bigger, quicker.
Instead of following a routine where you dedicate one day to each muscle, try something like an upper-lower routine where you train your lower body twice a week and your upper body twice a week.
A push-pull, or push-pull-legs split both also work well. The push-pull involves training your pushing muscles (quads, chest, shoulders, triceps and calves) twice a week and your pulling muscles (hamstrings, glutes, back, traps and biceps) twice a week. With the push-pull-legs, you do the same, but give your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves their own separate workouts.
Mistake #2 – Using too Many Exercises
Exercise variation is good, and hitting your muscles from different angles is important, but too much change, and variety is no longer the spice of life.
Decades of bodybuilding dogma have told us that we need to hit each muscle group with numerous different exercises every workout, but this is one of the worst things you can do – too many exercises mean you can’t perform each with optimal intensity.
Therefore, you’re far better picking 2 to 3 exercises per muscle group, per workout.
Mistake #3 – Thinking You’re Better than the Basics
The basics are the basics for a reason – they work.
Squats, deadlifts and bench presses have stood the test of time, and will never go away, simply because of how effective they are.
Whatever program you’re following, it should contain these, or at least their variants, such as front squats, box squats, stiff-legged or trap bar deadlifts, incline presses and dumbbell presses.
Mistake #4 – Being too Active
Being fit and healthy is great, but it could be screwing with your muscle gains.
Building muscle requires calories, and a big reason skinny guys stay skinny is because they burn too many calories through their daily activities, whether that’s walking, being on your feet all day, or having an active job.
To make up for this you’ll have to eat more calories anyway, so don’t make this even harder by adding in cardio or excessive sporting activities. Sometimes, it pays to be lazy.
Mistake #5 – Eating Small
There’s a reason why people say “eat big to get big” – because it’s true.
People who have a hard time building muscle typically think they eat a lot, but in reality they don’t. You need to be eating at least four decent-sized meals per day, with each one containing protein, carbs and fats. Throw in a couple of high-calorie snacks on top, don’t be afraid of some junk food, and you’ll be making a good start.
To make sure you’re eating enough, start tracking your calories and macronutrients with an app, and aim to hit at least 18 calories per pound of bodyweight per day, and around 1 gram of protein per pound.
It’s Not Your Genetics
Some guys will have a harder time building muscle, but you don’t need to accept a life of being skinny and weak.
Quit messing around with fancy exercises, hopping from one routine to the other, and concentrate a little more on what you put in your mouth, then give it time, and you too can get to the stage where you look like you lift.
Mike Samuels is an online coach, writer and powerlifter. He lifts in the GBPF under-74kg category, and has also competed in natural bodybuilding shows with the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation. Mike trains clients looking to get leaner and stronger, and specializes in working with natural bodybuilders and powerlifters. For more information, check out his website, www.healthylivingheavylifting.com